Dichotomy and Trichotomy - Part Three1
Now that we’ve looked at how the words soul, spirit, mind, and heart are used in the Bible, we turn our attention to particular passages of Scripture in the NT that are often used to defend the notion of trichotomy. Continue reading . . .
Now that we’ve looked at how the words soul, spirit, mind, and heart are used in the Bible, we turn our attention to particular passages of Scripture in the NT that are often used to defend the notion of trichotomy.
We being by taking note of biblical texts where some particular emotional or spiritual experience is ascribed both to the “spirit” and the “soul” of Jesus. Take the intensely deep feeling of sorrow and grief. In some texts it is the “spirit” of Jesus that experiences sorrow and grief:
“And he [Jesus] sighed deeply in his spirit and said, ‘Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation’” (Mark 8:12).
“After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me’” (John 13:21)
Yet in other texts it is the “soul” of Jesus that has the same experience:
“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour? But for this purpose I have come to this hour’” (John 12:27).
“Then he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me’” (Matt. 26:38).
We see the same equivalence of “soul” and “spirit” in the experience of mere men:
“Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols” (Acts 17:16).
“(for as that righteous man [Lot] lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard)” (2 Peter 2:8).
Notice that in both the previous texts the vexation or pain being experienced was by a righteous man (Paul and Lot) and concerned their reaction to grievous sin.
Similarly, joy is the experience or expression of or is centered in both the “spirit” (Pss. 32:2; 34:18; 51:10, 12, 17; Prov. 11:13; 16:19; Isa. 57: 15; Ezek. 11:19; 18:31; 36:26) and the “soul” (Pss. 42:1-6; 63:5; 103:1, 2; 116:7; 130:6; Isa. 26:9).
If the “spirit” is the unique and extraordinarily pious faculty by/through/in which we express and experience our love for God and deepest devotion to him, why is it that in Mark 12:30 Jesus uses the terms heart, soul, mind, and strength, but says nothing of the spirit? And if we are going to appeal to texts that mention body, soul, and spirit to prove that a human is comprised of three distinct parts or faculties, why can we not appeal to texts such as Mark 12:30 to prove that a human is comprised of four parts: heart, soul, mind, and strength? And if that were not enough, in Mark 12:33 a scribe reiterates what Jesus said but includes the “understanding” (suneseos) as that in/with/through which we are to love God. Jesus says of this man that he spoke “wisely” (Mark 12:34a).
If we were to treat these texts in the gospels the way trichotomists treat and interpret Hebrews 4:12 and 1 Thessalonians 5:23 we would be forced to conclude that a human being is comprised of at least six separate faculties: heart, soul, mind, strength, spirit, and understanding.
And we’ve already noted that the highest function of the immaterial dimension of a person, worship and adoration, is attributed to both soul and spirit. We note again Mary’s famous Magnificat or hymn of praise to God: “And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46).
John Murray concludes:
“The conclusion is inescapable that the center of devotion and the seat of the most characteristic exercises of the regenerate person is the soul as well as the heart and the spirit. The evidence cannot be adjusted to the supposition that the soul is the outer chamber, and that it is the spirit that is the organ of God-consciousness and the center of spiritual-mindedness” (“Trichotomy,” Collected Writings 2:27).